Ongoing doping scandal could lift Lassen’s Olympic result to fifth

Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen didn’t get a good night’s sleep on Wednesday. Three months after learning her 2008 Olympic finish could move from eighth to seventh, she got a call from her mom Moira Lassen...

Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen didn’t get a good night’s sleep on Wednesday.

Three months after learning her 2008 Olympic finish could move from eighth to seventh, she got a call from her mom Moira Lassen, an executive board member of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), telling her that result could jump another two spots.

“I got the call at 3:30 in the morning telling me I had gone from seventh to fifth and I lied awake in bed reliving those lifts in a way I haven’t before,” said Lassen. “When one more lift is the difference between fifth and the podium, it’s a different feeling. I imagine it’s the same as people who finish fourth at the Olympics feel.”

A second wave of urine retests conducted by the International Olympic Committee have implicated 15 more weightlifters from the 2008 Beijing Olympics in a doping scandal that has rocked the sport for months, the IWF announced this week.

Among the 15 are three weightlifting champions from China, including Cao Lei who won gold in the 75-kilogram weight class in which Lassen competed.

This week’s announcement also listed fourth place finisher Iryna Kulesha of Belarus and 11th place’s Hripsime Khurshudyan of Armenia, also from the 75-kilo class.

With the latest round of testing for banned substances, 11 weightlifters now face being stripped of their 2008 medals.

“In line with the relevant rules and regulations, the IWF imposed mandatory provisional suspensions upon the Athletes, who remain provisionally suspended in view of potential anti-doping rule violations until their cases are closed,” read a statement on the IWF website.

The IOC’s first round of urine retests — using methods unavailable at the time of the 2008 Games — took place in May and found evidence of doping among 31 Beijing Olympians, spanning 12 countries and six sports.

Among them was Russia’s Nadezhda Evstyukhina, the bronze medalist in Lassen’s weight class.

Lassen, who retired from competition in 2012, originally placed eighth with a combined total of 240 kilos, seven under her personal best. Evstyukhina took bronze with 245.

“Going from eighth to seventh was the start of it – it was a surprise,” said Lassen. “It’s neat to know that they are developing ways to test past results. They’ve come further and there’s more science and they can go back 10 years and find people who were cheating.

“Now it’s round two and there are two more positive tests and now I’m fifth — fifth by five kilos. If I had made one more lift, I would have been on the podium.”

More than just 2008 urine samples are being tested. Samples taken at the 2012 London Olympics are also being analyzed and the women’s 75-kilo class results are again among those in disarray. All three medalists from the weight class have tested positive for banned substances, including Kulesha, who won the bronze.

A weightlifter at the recent Rio Olympics has already been stripped of his medal after testing positive. Kyrgyzstan’s Izzat Artykov, who competed in the men’s 69-kilo division, lost his bronze.

A Mongolian lifter and 2012 Olympic champ Adrian Zielinski of Poland were also disqualified for positive tests in Rio.

“It’s a heartbreaking time for our sport, but it’s also a time where we can take a stand and make a change, clean things up,” said Lassen.

The IOC’s most recent test is actually just the second of four that are planned. So, theoretically, Lassen’s result could move up farther.

“There are four athletes ahead of me who potentially haven’t been tested. They haven’t announced who’s been tested and who hasn’t, they’ve just been revealing the retested positives,” said Lassen. “So there’s a possibility one or more of those athletes might test positive.”

Lassen, 35, who is a candidate the Yukon Liberal Party in the upcoming territorial election, had a remarkable bar-bending career.

She competed at six junior world championships and seven senior worlds, claiming hardware at both.

Lassen also won gold and set a Games record at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

She captured a total of nine medals at Pan American Championships between 2000 and 2008 and won 15 medals at the University World Championships between 1999 and 2005.

She retired from competition in 2009 but returned to the sport in 2011, winning silver at the Canadian Senior Weightlifting Championships and taking 15th at the World Weightlifting Championships.

She then won gold at the 2012 Western Canadian Senior Weightlifting Championships and made the Canadian team for the 2012 London Olympic Games, five days before a career-ending back injury.

“The great leveler for all athletes, no matter who you are or where you’re from, getting that lift in that moment, running that race in that moment, whatever it is, getting that technique, overcoming the fear and the excitement and the pressure, there’s nothing that can do that except your own will and determination,” she added.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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